The recent government shutdown by the Republicans made it excruciatingly clear that they don’t care about military veteran, active military or their families any more than they care about women or America’s underprivileged.
Many Americans were tragically treated like pawns on a chessboard for the political ambitions of a handful of extremist Republican obstructionists. One of the groups that was particularly hard hit and certainly did not deserve it—was our veterans, our active troops still in an active war zone and scattered across the globe from South Korea to the twenty remaining military bases in Germany.
As the threat of yet another hostage-situation shutdown and debt ceiling fight looms in a few short months, Republicans and DINOs (Democrats in Name Only—yes like you Joe Manchin) would do well to remember the public resentment that accompanied the events of the last few weeks. Their petty political games put tremendous stress on a small group of people who’ve already shouldered unparalleled stress over more than a decade of war.
When the shutdown brought news of suspended death gratuity benefits for families of troops killed in action, it spread like wildfire to an understandably outraged public. Overnight, the Pentagon cut a deal with the nonprofit Fisher House Foundation to provide $100,000 payments to families, while a bill landed on the president’s desk in a swift 48 hours. But the country’s troops and veterans promptly emerged as one of the Republican’s shutdown most visible hostages.
Paul Rieckhoff Takes Center Stage
A Paul Reikhoff-led group of World War II veterans visiting Washington on Day 1 of the shutdown were told that they would not be allowed to visit their Memorial. Undeterred, they peacefully pushed through barriers and refused to be stopped by yellow park police tape or a broken bureaucracy.
It was a powerful, spontaneous moment. And, of course, political opportunists pounced, including the Duke and Duchess of Dumbass, megalomaniacs Ted Cruz and Sarah Palin.
Along with them came shutdown leaders aplenty within hours to express their contrived and opportunistic concerns. Politicians, who had never served in uniform themselves and never gave a second thought about the benefits for millions of veterans that were being jeopardized by the shutdown, were quick to make hollow statements like “Our veterans should be above political games.” All said while they were using vets for political gamesmanship and mere props for their own publicity.
Well, we’ve had enough.
Ever since 9/11, and maybe as far back as the Revolutionary War, veterans have been America’s favorite political prop. Republicans especially love to tout how much they support the troops. And presidents from both parties have stood in front of a wall of young people in camouflage to make political speeches. But when it comes to actually delivering, most Washington leaders have been AWOL. And it was that more obvious than over the last few weeks.
Five million men and women who receive disability and GI Bill benefits were forced to worry whether they’d get their next check. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs furloughed 9,000 employees and suspended services. And more than 400,000 veterans already stuck in the reprehensible VA disability backlog were forced to wait even longer.
Claims processors were furloughed, regional offices were closed, mandatory overtime was abruptly brought to a standstill. Progress on the VA’s new upgraded technologically processing system stopped. Nonprofit groups experienced a 500% increase in demand for assistance programs overnight.
The shutdown also recklessly damaged our national security. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel called the shutdown completely irresponsible as thousands of Reservists and National Guardsmen had training drills canceled. The shutdown also had a profound impact on their family finances, as many proud, TRUE Americans depend on that drill pay to keep food on the table, not to mention they were also losing life-sustaining training for war. And it wasn’t exactly a morale boost for 60,000 troops serving in Afghanistan to read that if they were killed their families might not get enough money to fly to meet their coffin in Dover.
President Obama vows better education for veterans.
CEO’s promise jobs, in strategically placed product advertisements of course.
They always do.
But this was not our country’s first government shutdown. It was, however, the first government shutdown while our country was STILL AT WAR!
How Low Can They Go?
But beyond being a political football, veterans have long been our nation’s conscience and pride. In a time when so few have served, we represent the best of America. The world watched last week, as President Obama awarded the Medal of Honor to former Army Capt. William Swenson.
His courage and selfless service was a shocking contrast to seeing Ted Cruz, Failin Palin, and Teathuglicans waving Confederate Flags “to celebrate their proud southern heritage”, but that actually that represent them as traitors to the United States; who killed 112,000 U.S. troops during the Civil War so that they could continue to profit off of other human beings being treated as pack animals.
Consider the fact that there are no World War II veterans left in the Senate and only one from Vietnam. In fact there are fewer veterans serving in Congress than at any point in American history. In years past, World War II veterans from different parties, like Bob Dole and Frank Lautenberg, frequently were able to find common ground and cooperation in a shared understanding that they had put their lives on the line for their country. These proud old warriors were the ones who often bridged the petty political fights in Washington.
And their loss has never been felt more than right now with obstructionist, seditious, opportunists standing in the way of bringing pride and accomplishments back to what’s left of America’s once sparkling reputation as leaders—not petulant, losers who seek to turn back the clock on the civil rights of minorities, treating women as if this were a Taliban-run, and anyone else who doesn’t support their twisted and distorted definitions of what our government is about—by actively obstructing, rather than encouraging voter participation in our elections.
Although it’s gratifying that Washington heard the voices and ended the shutdown. But, last week’s deal only keeps the government open until January. Veterans are right to wonder if they’ll be the victims of Teapublican sick games again soon.
Get out of the way traitors, seditionists, and obstructionists. Or you might just find yourselves standing in the same unemployment lines that you’ve created for veterans and everyone else who doesn’t cow-tow to your brand of treason.
Harvey A. Gold